THOMAS J RIGSBEE FARM / DUKE UNIVERSITY WEST CAMPUS

THOMAS J RIGSBEE FARM / DUKE UNIVERSITY WEST CAMPUS

,
Durham
NC
/ demolished in
1924
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
Neighborhood: 
Type: 
Use: 

 

tjrigsbee_house_westcampus.jpg

Rigsbee House, 1912

 

 

Left-to-right:

 

1 Mary Tom Rigsbee

2 Jesse Albert Rigsbee 

3 Carrie Rigsbee (in lap of Jesse)

4 Nellie Brogden (niece of Jenny Rigsbee)

5 Mabel Rigsbee

6 Eugenia 'Jenny' Blalock Rigsbee

7 Faye Rigsbee

8 Norman Rigsbee (seated)

9 Jack Rigsbee (standing)

10 Boyd George Brogden (seated -- nephew of Jenny Rigsbee)

 

(Courtesy Keith Bowden)

 

rigsbee_barn.jpg

Rigsbee Barn, 1912

 

 

Left-to-right:

1 Mabel Rigsbee

2 Eugenia 'Jenny' Blalock Rigsbee

3 Carrie Rigsbee

4 Nancy Rigsbee

5 Faye Rigsbee

6 Nellie Brogden (niece of Jenny Rigsbee)

7 Mary Tom Rigsbee

8 Boy on horseback

9 Norman Rigsbee

10 Jesse Albert Rigsbee

11 Boyd George Brogden (nephew of Jenny Rigsbee)

12 Jack Rigsbee

 

(Courtesy Keith Bowden)

 

Collectively, the Rigsbee family owned a huge amount of what would become Durham. Atlas Monroe Rigsbee, who owned much of Morehead HIll prior to selling it off to William Vickers, lived on the northwest corner of what is now East Chapel Hill Street and the eponymous Rigsbee Avenue. His farmstead stretched to the northeast, taking in much of Mangum St. and Cleveland Holloway. His brother, Thomas J Rigsbee (5/20/1846 - 3/23/1917), owned large tracts of land west of Durham. Both were sons of Jesse Rigsbee (6/22/1808 - 2/1/1881) and Mary Vickers Rigsbee. Given that there was another Jesse Rigsbee in eastern Orange County that served in the Revolutionary War, the Rigsbees have a very long tenure in these parts.

 

At what is now the intersection of Anderson Street and Duke University Road, Rigsbee Road continued westward along a path cutting diagonally across the current Duke University West Campus, intersecting with 751 at the current cross country trail. I <a href="http://endangereddurham.blogspot.com/2010/08/rigsbee-road-old-erwin-fore... last year</a> about the westward continuation of Rigsbee Road from that point. The TJ Rigsbee (Sr.) farmhouse and barn stood near the Duke football stadium on the present-day campus.

 

TJ Rigsbee had three wives, and only the third was still living when Murray Jones  came calling as an agent of James B. Duke in 1924. I've written previously about the failed attempt to buy land between Trinity College and Watts Hospital to build Duke University, and William Preston Few's familiarity with the Rigsbee land. 

 

Jones paid $200,771 for 399.68 acres of land from the TJ Rigsbee estate. Rigsbee's estate made up the bulk of the original West Campus, but it was hardly the only land purchased by the Dukes for the university; Jones' many transactions stretch throughout 

1925, and the original Duke University plat makes clear the number of parcels combined. I've overlaid this plat on Google Earth imagery - you can see the course of Rigsbee Road on this map.

 

DukePlat_Rigsbee_Feb1925.jpgDuke University plat, February 1925.

 

 

I wish the picture below was higher resolution. The 1929 photo shows the new west campus under construction in 1929 to the left. Rigsbee Road ~bisects the picture, and you can see the new course of Duke University Road snaking into the right foreground. The stadium area is evident near Rigsbee Road. This natural ravine was where the Rigsbee family kept their pigs. Although not sharp enough to be distinguishable, the buildings and roads of the old farmstead are visible just past the stadium.

 

WestCampus_constructionaerial-1929.jpg

1929 aerial, looking northeast.

 

Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection)

 

dukerendering.jpgTrumbauer/Abele's rendering of Duke's West Campus.

 

Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection)

 

DukeConstruction_1.jpgWest Campus under construction.

 

Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection)

 

The site of the farmstead is now parking lot for the university.

 

TJRigsbeeHouse_061411.jpgApproximate site of the TJ Rigsbee House, 06.14.11

 

 

Rigsbeebarn_061411.jpgApproximate site of the TJ Rigsbee Farm, 06.14.11

 

 

The only remnant of the Rigsbee farm is the family cemetery, which sits on the southern side of one of the surface parking lots.

 

TJRigsbee_graveyardgate_061411.jpgGraveyard entrance, 06.14.11

 

 

The family retained ownership of the graveyard when the Dukes/Trinity College purchased the site. It remains in the family (and maintained by the family) today.

TJRigsbee_061411.jpg

 

henryjacksonrigsbee_061411.jpg

06.14.11

 

 

There are four rough stones in the cemetery which are, per family history, linked to the unidentified bodies of Confederate soldiers.

 

<i>A Rigsbee relative remembered that it was here that three Confederate soldiers were buried, their bodies having been found following one of the last skirmishes in the area. Only their soiled uniforms indicated they were soldiers. The Rigsbees washed the uniforms, redressed the bodies, and buried them in this family cemetery, saying, 'Hopefully, someone will do the same for our folks.'</i>

 

RigsbeeCemetery_confeds_061411.jpgConfederate burials, 06.14.11

 

 

 

RigsbeeCemetery_061411.jpgRigsbee Cemetery, 06.14.11

 

 

Many thanks to Rigsbee descendants Johnny Rigsbee and Keith Bowden for educating me on the history of the site and their family

 

keith_johnny_rigsbee_061411.jpg

TJ Rigsbee's great-grandson, Johnny Rigsbee and great-great grandson, Keith Bowden

Comments

  • Submitted by Gary on Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - 2:00am

    Anon - yes that's it. GK

  • Submitted by Andrew Edmonds on Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - 2:00am

    Read more about the family cemetery, here: http://dukechronicle.com/article/tombstones-blue-zone

  • Submitted by Anonymous on Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - 2:00am

    Thanks so much for this post. I have been to that cemetery several times and never understood the connection to Duke. Very enlightening with some great pix and narrative.

  • Submitted by Anonymous on Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - 2:00am

    Is the cemetery between the east side of Wade Stadium and Wannamaker Drive, perhaps 150-200 feet from each? If so, I used to park nearby but didn't remember the wall. (But that was 40 years ago.)

  • Submitted by Gary on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - 2:00am

    Andy I can't speak to the personal information in that article, but the amount of money is wrong, and the vague and general comment about some 'Rigsbee Mansion' is bewildering. GK

  • Submitted by Michael Bacon on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - 2:00am

    I'm glad to finally see a map of Rigsbee Rd. If you look at where it rejoins Cameron Blvd now, you can see a line of old oak trees follow Cameron and then veer off at an angle, where they once lined the Wallace Wade access road before Science Drive was built, and I always thought that road was the remnant of Rigsbee Rd. However, there's a, for lack of a better word, crease in the treeline in Google Maps that's often associated with old rail beds or road beds. Also, one of the parking lots that juts off of 751 into Duke Forest just east of Erwin Rd. is clearly a Rigsbee Rd. remnant. And do I recall that Lemur Ln is also a Rigsbee Rd. remnant?

  • Submitted by Gary on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - 2:00am

    Michael - yes, I did a post on the western section (before I understood the portion east of 751) = here GK

  • Submitted by Anonymous on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - 2:00am

    Many thanks for the write-up and for all you do in preserving Durham history. I need to give a shout-out to my Aunt Jackie Smith for the pictures of the farm house and barn, and also to my cousin Rosalynde Robertson for managing the upkeep of the cemetery. The personal information in the Duke Chronicle article is correct but I also noticed the mistake about the amount paid – I’m not sure where that came from. With regards to the ‘mansion’ reference in the same piece, I believe a Durham newspaper article from the ‘40s referred to the house as substantial for its time and maybe that was the source for the Chronicle writer. Finally, one comment here asked if the wall around the cemetery was new. According to relatives, it’s not new and was there when the farm was sold. Keith Bowden

  • Submitted by Anonymous on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - 2:00am

    Great post! Finished off with pics of cousins I have never met. Keith and I have talked via e-mail(we met through this site), but have yet to meet. Seth Roberts Grandson of Catherine Rigsbee

  • Submitted by Gary on Friday, August 26, 2011 - 2:00am

    Thank you again for your generosity, Keith. The house pictured would not have been very mansion-esque for the period (compared to contemporaneous houses in the core of Durham.) My guess would be that there was a conflation with TJ Rigsbee's 'in-town' house that stood at 415 N. Mangum. It was substantial, and torn down during the 1920s or early 1930s for the Pure Oil gas station (421 N. Mangum) and the extension of Watkins St. (Morgan St.) east from Rigsbee Ave. to N. Mangum. GK

  • Submitted by Dave G. on Friday, September 9, 2011 - 2:00am

    Gary, I have been curious about the Rigsbee's and how all of this transpired for a while. So thanks for shedding some more light on it. I know Buck Duke had quite a few land owners (and just about everyone else for that matter) mad at him. It seems they got a fair shake as far as the selling price goes, though. Anyway, I'm not a Civil War historian or anything but I could only think of Fort Fisher, NC in regards to the tombstone you have pictured. That battle (2 actually) took place years later at the end of the war and the Fort is nowhere near Virginia. He didn't have to die in a battle as many died of disease but I can't even find the place. You have any clues?

  • Submitted by Anonymous on Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - 2:00am

    Not to butt in, but to Dave G.: Fort Fisher VA is near Petersburg; the battle was March 25, 1865 between Lee's Army of Northern Virginia forces and U.S. Grant.

  • Submitted by Durham Wolf on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 5:26pm

    The grave marker for Henry Jackson Rigsbee (CSA) states that he died at "Fort" Fisher Va.  I could only find a "Fort" Fisher near Wilmington, NC that matched-up with the date he was supposed to have died.  However there were no battles at this Fort untill 1864.  Still, he could have died of a camp wide illness as so many did during this war.

    However, there was a "Camp" Fisher about 25 miles south of Washington, DC in the town of Montclair, Va.  The 6th NC Infantry Division of General Johnston's Army of the Shenandoah had just fought that summer at Bull Run (1st Manassas) and then pulled back to this camp site in September of 1861 to remain for the winter along with some other Divisions of the army as well.  At Manassas, the NC 6th Division's commander, Col. Charles F. Fisher, was shot off his horse and died of his wound.  Both the Fort in Wilmington and the Camp in Virginia were named in his honor as he was seen as a hero (a lot of that was going around, apparently.  That's the same battle that "Stonewall" Jackson got his nickname).  The 6th NC Division broke camp in March of 1862.

    It's unclear to me as to whether or not H.J. Rigsbee died 4 or 5 months after receiving wounds in battle or as so many others did...of some kind of disease contracted while at camp.  Nonetheless, it appears most likely that H.J. Rigsbee died while encamped at "Camp" Fisher, Va. on December 22, 1861 and not as part of a building detail constructing the earthen Fort Fisher at Wilmington, NC.

  • Submitted by William Norman ... on Monday, November 19, 2012 - 6:21pm

    I remember back in the late 40s and 50s when my dad would take me over there during the summer and we'd cut the grass. I also remember at some time, vandalism occurred and many of the old headstones were turned over and the more fragile ones were destroyed. Dad said that he knew that many of the stones were not put back in their correct places but he couldn't remember exactly where they were. I do know that one of his young sisters had typhoid fever and died and she is buried there, back alongside the southwest side, closest to the stadium.
    Bill

  • Submitted by Norman May on Sunday, October 6, 2013 - 10:31am

    It was great to see the pictures of my Grandad, Norman Rigsbee. Wonderful to know the history of our family and Duke University.

    Norman May

  • Submitted by Lynda C Leonard on Monday, November 18, 2013 - 1:00am

    Could you please share with me any information you have on a grave located within the Jesse Rigsbee Cemetery under the name of "William J Pickett" b. Mar 24, 1857, d. Dec 19, 1912. The middle initial stands for "Jackson". I believe this gentleman would be my great-grandfather, if he had a son by the name of Spencer Milton Pickett. His grave is one of the 9 burials within the grounds. I'm interested in knowing as to why he was buried in this location. His wife, Hannah E. Davis Pickett is buried at Maplewood Cemetery, which is just up the road. I do appreciate your research efforts and your response to me. Lynda

  • Submitted by gary on Monday, November 18, 2013 - 9:07am

    Lynda - everything I currently know about Durham is on this site. If you find out more, appreciate you coming back to post additional info.

    Thanks - GK

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